This article is for poets who are setting out on the road to becoming 'published poets'. If you've been writing poems for your own and your friends' consumption, perhaps for many years, and are being told by admiring friends, 'you should publish, make a book of them', and find you have a drawerful or a computerful of poems that you would like to share with the world at large, read on.
But first, a reality alert: if you're envisaging a poetic career as a household name, or a steady income from your poetry's being published, be aware that neither of these outcomes is easy or even possible for most poets. It's a cliché but like most clichés, it's true – there's no money in poetry.
Poets write and publish because they have to, because they love words, and because they enjoy the poetry community that now flourishes online and at readings and spoken word events. They more often earn their living by teaching the art and craft of writing, or by keeping another day-job that leaves them time and energy to write poetry.
Having said all that, a literary CV – a list of your achievements as a poet – is a useful and satisfying addition to your poetic life.which will help you to get your work taken seriously by potential publishers. It can also help you to gain credibility as a workshop leader or teacher, or as an applicant to a Creative Writing university course. This note is intended to suggest how to build one, using your drawerful of poems as a starting point.
SUBMITTING TO JOURNALS AND MAGAZINES
Submitting poems to journals, magazines and anthologies is normally free of charge. You may not receive an acknowledgement or rejection letter, but you should be informed if your poem has been accepted, with a date when it will be published. Guidance when submitting:
Here are a few of the webzines and print journals which advertise for submissions. Before submitting, read their website and make sure they are accepting submissions right now: at some times of the year they may not be reading unsolicited manuscripts. Always include a covering letter, giving your name, address and other contact details,, and if possible a SHORT resumé of your literary CV. ( I would recommend about 50 words.) If you can address the letter to a named person, do so. Keep your letter fairly formal. Most of these run competitions too.
The Lake (webzine) http://www.thelakepoetry.co.uk/submit/
Magma (quarterly print journal) https://magmapoetry.com/ – £8.00 per copy
Orbis (monthly print journal and online newsletters) www.orbisjournal.com
– This is a very prestigious journal, reasonably priced: sample 2 back issues for just £7
(inc p+p). Single copies: £5.
SOUTH (twice yearly print magazine) http://www.southpoetry.org/
The Journal (online and print journal) https://sites.google.com/site/samsmiththejournal/
The London Grip (webzine) https://londongrip.co.uk/
If you don't already have a Facebook or Twitter account, it would be a good idea to set one up, because there's so much useful information there about openings for submitting your poems, as well as opportunities for publicising, reading and buying poetry.
SUBMITTING TO COMPETITIONS
Poetry competitions can be a short-cut to publication, and in some cases a means of actually making a financial profit from poetry. They can also be a drain on your finances, because they usually exact an entrance fee, to fund the prizes and anthologies that they promise to deliver.
Your poetry CV will stand you in good stead when you decide to submit a manuscript to a publisher, or to apply for a position running a poetry workshop, or a position in the creative writing department of a college, school or university, or for a place on a degree course yourself. Keeping records of where your poems have been seen and read is worth the time spent on admin work, and after a while you'll find yourself encouraged, despite day-to day disappointments, to find how many successes you have achieved, especially when you list them on the "Acknowledgements" page of your first collection.